Editor’s Memo: A Stalemate We Cannot Afford

 ZIMBABWE cannot afford the current talks stalemate between Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC.

It is common cause to all fair-minded Zimbabweans that there is no other choice out of the current crisis besides dialogue. There is too much at stake and there is no doubt that reason should prevail among the principal actors to the negotiations being mediated by South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Sadc, which facilitated the negotiations, has already endorsed a framework of the deal the parties agreed to nearly a month ago, which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai later refused to sign and threw back the document to President Robert Mugabe, Mbeki and the leader of the smaller faction of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara.

The three principals are yet to sign the deal, leaving many Zimbabweans asking what the future holds for them. The way forward can only be secured if the players put the country on the top of their personal agendas.

Mugabe believes that Zimbabwe is less secure if power is transferred or shared in a manner that will reduce his current profile and status as the ultimate protector of sovereignty. Tsvangirai believes that the proposal on the table will render him an agent and not a principal. He will be accountable to the very man he sought to remove and may ultimately face the same fate as the late Vice-president Joshua Nkomo.

The current economic crisis has unfolded under Mugabe’s watch and there is no evidence to suggest that he has any plan to salvage the country from its quagmire. Political analysts and commentators have been arguing that it is up to him to give way to a new generation, but unfortunately Mugabe does not believe that Tsvangirai represents the change that he can believe in. With the international community having delegated resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis to African leaders through Sadc, and to an extent the African Union, I strongly believe this must compel Tsvangirai to come to the party sooner rather than later.

There is no doubt that there will be a diplomatic offensive to encourage Tsvangirai to sign the agreement. Whether he will resist or not remains to be seen.

However, it is now emerging that Tsvangirai’s position has no traction with the Sadc leaders let alone the AU.

Tsvangirai remains popular, but time has come for him to make the choice. It appears that the proposal on the table when properly analysed can still achieve the objective that many would accept as a way forward.

Under the proposal, Zanu PF will have 15 ministers, MDC-T 13; and MDC-M 4 making the opposition the majority. If Tsvangirai can cut a deal with Mutambara then it does not appear as if Mugabe will have room to manoeuvre.

Just as Zanu PF discovered that they could not influence the Speaker’s election, it should now be obvious that there is a price to any misbehavior by either Mugabe or Tsvangirai. This is the first time Mugabe is in a position where he cannot get what he wants.

If the March 29 power configuration is entrenched then it may not be necessary for Tsvangirai to insist on executive powers when he has already shown that he can prevail in the case of the Speaker. He has also demonstrated that without his signature, Sadc cannot close the Zimbabwe issue.

Sadc cannot do more than the people of Zimbabwe have already done. They have given control of parliament to the opposition and the failure of the opposition to find each other at a defining moment cannot surely be blamed on Sadc. The opposition leaders must accept some of the responsibility and if they are not careful they risk being rendered irrelevant.

Surely, executive powers must be aligned to the control of the house of assembly. To the extent that Tsvangirai now controls parliament, it should be time for him to pause and think carefully whether the standoff would be sustainable based on the March 29 results for him to proceed to control the executive as well, particularly in the knowledge that the Senate is controlled by Zanu PF. The March 29 results have sufficiently balanced power to the extent that any fear of the Zapu experience may be exaggerated.

Sadc has accepted that Zanu PF is part of the solution and, therefore, it is unlikely that they will put any more pressure on Mugabe. It is up to Tsvangirai and Mutambara to think hard and fast about what they need to do to move the country forward.

Some have argued that Mutambara is an opportunist and, therefore, must be ignored. However, he remains the president of his party and it would be foolhardy to ignore him and his colleagues. In the final analysis it may be necessary for Tsvangirai to reach out to those who have identified with the change agenda first before seeking to cut a deal with Zanu PF.

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